Twenty years ago, Donna Karan revolutionized fashion by proving that power and sensuousness aren't mutually exclusive. True to that, reconciling opposites has been one of her career strengths; who else can seduce executive women into fitted cashmere jackets and chunky African jewelry? But in her spring collection, Karan's usually masterful blend turned cacophonous.
The rich, confident suits, supple knits, and great jerseys that would work so well with this season's trend for softness and ease were nowhere to be found. Instead, Karan focused on severely tailored wool pieces, strangely inset with athletic mesh panels and often laced up the back, corset-style. Some of her colors, like royal blue and fuchsia, were jarring, especially in bulky leather jackets whose strategic cutouts reprised her famous "cold shoulder" dress from the mid-nineties.
Karan's theme songDiane Reeves' "Endangered Species," with its lyrics proclaiming, "I am a woman and an artist"had a modern-earth-goddess message that ran counter to the boned bodices, stiff fabrics, and industrial-looking silver jewelry by Robert Lee Morris. A gifted, intuitive tailor, Karan again displayed impeccable fit throughout. She knows just where to cut a sleeve, how much a crisp poplin shirt should hug the torso, or how to make a jacket that sits perfectly on the hips. And some of her draped and ruched dresses yearned for a breeze to set them fluttering. Karan called her collection Constructing the Future, and her desire to break new ground is admirablebut hopefully that won't be at the expense of her remarkable past.